While there is no magic fix to end all back pain, here are a few ways you can help reduce your back pain without using medication.
Improve Sleep Positioning
Getting quality sleep with back pain can seem next to impossible. But your body needs that period of rest to heal and there are some positions that can help.
Side sleepers should use a supportive pillow under their head, as well as an extra pillow placed between their knees. If you sleep on your back, you’ll also want to use an extra small pillow either under the small of your back or under your knees (depending on where you feel pressure in your back) to maintain the back’s natural curve.
Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach if you can, but if you cannot sleep any other way, place an extra pillow under your pelvis to keep your back evenly supported.
If that’s too uncomfortable, try not using a pillow under your head.
Practice Good Posture
Bad posture can be a hard habit to break, especially if you spend most of your day hunched over at a computer. There are some options to help though.
If work is the primary problem, try using a standing desk or at least standing up and stretching for a few minutes at regular intervals. When walking, you want to consciously raise your head and drop your shoulders to release pressure.
Finally, if you spend a lot of time in the car, you need to have your seat set up to support your back, not reclined where you are having to lean forward to the steering wheel.
These things may seem awkward at first, but they can make a world of difference to help ease your back pain.
While you should be exercising to keep your whole body healthy, it’s important some of those exercises focus on building strength in your back. You should aim to include back-focused exercise sessions at least twice per week for intervals of 15-30 minutes. These sessions should not include heavy lifting.
Keep in mind, this is for people who have not otherwise been directed by a medical professional.If you are recovering from an injury or surgery, you will need to follow the instructions that have been provided to you.
Ideally, you’d be able to stretch at least daily, if not multiple times a day, but this may not always be possible. At minimum aim to thoroughly stretch your body, specifically your back, two to three times per week.
The goal is to release muscle tightness and increase flexibility. This will help to keep your body agile and reduce future injury.
Be sure not to overextend yourself. Once you start to feel muscle strain, it means that’s far enough for now, even if it doesn’t seem like much. It takes time to gain a further range of motion, so be patient and keep stretching.
Avoid Heavy Lifting
The first thing your doctor will likely tell you if you are reporting back pain is to avoid heavy lifting. Oftentimes, if your pain is caused by a disease or injury, medical professionals will recommend not lifting anything over five pounds.
If you do have to lift something moderately heavy, it’s important to remember to bend at the knees and use your legs to do most of the lifting.
Whenever possible, ask for help when lifting anything that causes you even minor strain.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) therapy pulses low-level electricity into your muscles in an effort to trigger a nerve response and ease pain.
The idea of putting electricity into your body to reduce pain may seem counterintuitive, but it's readily used to treat pain associated with various diseases and injuries.
While you can feel the pulses produced from the TENS therapy, it should not be painful. The intensity can be adjusted so that you remain comfortable through the treatment.
While the science is still out on if/how acupuncture helps with back pain, many people have reported that it has helped them. If you’re unfamiliar with acupuncture, it’s the Chinese practice of inserting very thin needles into the skin at specific points of pressure.
It’s believed that the needles will stimulate a response from our nervous system to ease pain, but this has not been proven.Always be sure you’re only receiving acupuncture from a certified practitioner.
Given the low risk of negative side effects, it might be worth a try.
Get the Right Footwear
Back pain isn’t always caused directly by your back. Your hips, knees, or feet might be the actual culprit. If any of those parts are not fully aligned and supported, it can cause strain in your back.
Not all shoes are created equal when it comes to providing support. High heels for women are especially terrible, but most flat sandals for men or women aren’t much better.
The best shoes for reducing back pain are often sneakers, or other slip-on style shoes, that have a cushioned, arched sole and deep tread.
Try different shoes and pay attention to how your body feels at the end of the day in them. Remember, support over style if you’re looking to ease the pain in your back.
Sometimes when we are overly stressed we forget the pressure we are putting on our bodies. Our breathing becomes more rapid, our muscles tense, and we struggle to get the rest our bodies need. While stress cannot always be avoided, there are things we can do to relax in times of high tension.
If you’re feeling stressed, first, remember to take deep, replenishing breaths. Try to get up and go for a walk or to release the tightness in your back muscles.
You can also try things like meditation, aromatherapy, or massage to help reduce back pain during periods of unavoidable high-stress.
Avoid Additional Injury
The worst thing that can happen to an already aching back is to cause additional injury. There are a few steps you can take to attempt to keep further injury at bay.
We’ve already discussed that you should not be doing any heavy lifting, but even if you are lifting moderately you need to be sure you are properly stretched and conditioned before doing so.
You’ll want to be sure to avoid wet or icy surfaces that could cause you to slip or fall.
Easing back pain doesn’t always require medication.
Sometimes simple lifestyle changes, like sleep positioning and supportive footwear, can make a world of difference.
If you don’t know what is causing your back pain and it has continued for several weeks despite your best efforts, it’s time to consult your doctor so they can help you develop the right treatment plan.